Fourteen years since his biggest hit “New York, New York,” Ryan Adams’ idiosyncratic career arc takes him to “Welcome to New York,” the opening of a full-length take on Taylor Swift’s 1989. Like Swift, the 40-year-old rocker is a Gotham transplant (though he now lives in Los Angeles) who has made a career out of heart-on-sleeve songs. So when he sings “Everybody here was someone else before,” there’s more than just geography at play. But does the world need 13 tracks of Swift covers in the style of The Smiths and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska? Maybe: Adams’ interpretations are poignant, translating Max Martin- and Shellback-written productions into R.E.M.-indebted college rock.
He can sound awkward navigating Swift’s vernacular of haters and mad love, but when he plays up his strengths — the fingerpicking and strings on “Blank Space,” or changing the “Style” lyric “James Dean daydream” to “Daydream Nation,” a nod to Sonic Youth — the universality of great songwriting shines through.